TITLE: Sins of the
AUTHOR'S NOTE: unbetaed so all mistakes are courtesy of yours truly.
For leia naberrie who threatened to strangle me with my own mouse cord if I didn't post soon
"Riots?" Padmé asks, a cold dread settling in her chest.
"I'm afraid so," Bail replies, his image flickering on the holo projector. "For now it's confined to a half-dozen skilled laborers' guilds scattered across systems on the Mid-Rim-Outer-Rim border, Sullust, Haruun Kal, Malastare."
"That's close to Naboo," Padmé says without thinking.
"So far we haven't had any reports of problems on Naboo, but other random issues are filtering in. The local governors have been abandoned to their own devices. I'm afraid it's going to get bloody. Without the full weight of the Empire visibly backing the governors, some will do whatever is necessary to assert their authority. Trade is already disrupted. Some of these systems are far from self-sufficient."
Padmé groans, leaning her forehead against one of the yacht's bulkheads.
"The Empire is falling apart," Bail says gravely. "The Emperor cleaned house, but didn't appoint replacements and now he's unreachable. I've heard through unofficial channels that someone from the Imperial Security Office is trying to hold things together."
"Piett," Padmé says under her breath. She sighs. "Anakin is … preoccupied," she explains, cringing at how woefully inadequate an excuse it is.
Bail purses his lips. "I heard he butchered Korto."
"Korto tried to have me killed."
"You're not denying it," Bail presses quietly.
"No." She looks at him, her lips pulled into a frown. "I'm not denying it."
Bail shakes his head, more weary than disgusted. "You have to do something, Padmé. If he allows this power vacuum to continue, chaos is going to consume the galaxy. Mas Amedda is being very quiet, which worries me a lot."
"Surely you and Mon have a contingency plan for something like this," Padmé says, trying not to sound bitter. She really doesn't begrudge them. In their place, she would do the same thing. It's only prudent.
"A plan, yes, but we never allowed for these circumstances. The Emperor has incredible public appeal right now, thanks largely to your return."
That's what I get for ignoring HoloNet all this time, Padmé thinks. She sighs loudly. "I wish I could help you right now, Bail. I really do. But I can't. Luke and Leia are both missing."
"This is your opportunity, Padmé!" Bail stresses. "If you assumed the throne, it would be a bloodless coup."
"Is that what you want?" she demands incredulously. "Another imperial?"
"Ideally, no, but I gave up many of my ideals long ago. You owe us this, Padmé. You owe the galaxy."
She shakes her head. "I can't. I won't."
He sighs, slumping in his chair. "Sometimes I have trouble remembering Senator Amidala."
She smiles sadly. "You're exactly as I remember you, Bail."
He looks up at her, disappointed, tired, but not angry. "I hope you find the children soon."
"Thank you, Bail," she says softly before closing the connection.
She sighs, wiping away unwanted tears. She stands, straightening her outfit and makes her way forward to the cockpit.
"The navigators are calculating alternate routes as fast as they can, My Lord. If you can give us more time – "
Anakin cuts off the transmission from one of his generals with a snarl. Padmé watches him as he shifts uneasily in the pilot's chair, filled with restless energy. They have been sitting in Anakin's grounded ship on Aargau for at least six standard hours. During that time, three Imperator class Star Destroyers have arrived and assumed orbit. However, there seems to be no end of issues with attempting to get the behemoths from Aargau to Byss.
"How long do the calculations take?" Padmé asks wearily, sliding into the co-pilot's seat. Every minute they sit here is another minute that their children could spend being tortured – or worse.
Anakin pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, eyes screwed tightly shut. "At this rate, years."
She stares at him aghast and he relents. "The navigators are trying," he explains. "It's nearly impossible – even for Force sensitives - to try and plot a course through hyperspace in this region. It's why Palpatine chose it as his personal retreat."
"But there has to be a way. The smuggler, Solo, was running shipments to Byss."
Anakin frowns. "His freighter was only marginally larger than this ship. It's still difficult, but nowhere near as dangerous as attempting to navigate Star Destroyers through this region."
"Could you do it?" Padmé demands.
"Of course," he scoffs.
"Then why are we still sitting here?"
"Because it's exactly what Palpatine would expect from me. And if he expects it, then he's prepared for it. I would rather arrive covertly in my ship and then have the Star Destroyers rendezvous at an appointed time and location."
Padmé slumps back in the seat. She marvels for a moment at Anakin's response to the situation. To see him show any type of restraint before charging in is shocking. Perhaps he is maturing beyond his hotheaded youth.
Anakin's plan is undoubtedly prudent. But sadly, that leaves them with only two alternatives. Waiting and hoping for a miracle which allows the Imperial navigators to chart a successful course, or heading to Byss with no reinforcements. Neither is particularly tempting.
"What are we going to do?"
He looks at her, holding her gaze for several long moments. "I've never been patient."
Anakin whistles, studying the long range scanner. "Well, it certainly is big," he says derisively. They have just exited hyperspace and despite all of Anakin's reassurances, it was a harrowing ride. Anakin hardly spoke the entire time, all of his attention consumed with keeping the yacht on course.
"Is that the Death Star?" Padmé asks.
"Yes," he replies quietly, looking decidedly defeated as they study the visual of the Death Star which has been magnified several orders on the scanner.
She shrugs, putting on a brave front. "It doesn't look that big."
He stares at her for a second. Then another second. "We're two light minutes out."
She blinks. "Is that a long way?"
"Thirty-six million kilometers."
They're close to the planet – far closer than Padmé would have thought prudent. But Anakin explained that the gravity wells in the sector play havoc with all the sensors so proximity is a necessity. The planet looks verdantly lush, like Naboo, with a great deal of surface water and continents colored green by an abundance of native flora. "It looks serene," Padmé says almost wistfully, studying the surface of Byss through the cockpit windows.
"It's not," Anakin says, eyeing the planet warily. "This entire system is steeped in the dark side."
Padmé turns away from the view and looks closely at her husband. "I would think you would find that comforting."
He gives her an unreadable look, choosing not to reply.
Pressing several buttons on the console in quick succession, he brings up a topographical readout on the scanners. "The Death Star is in geosynchronous orbit above this location." He pushes a few more buttons and the yacht's long range scanners pull up a live, though fuzzy, image to accompany the topographical readout.
Padmé leans closer to study the screen, but before she can take a good look, alarms blare inside the cockpit. She snaps back in her chair, scanning the windows and sensors for the source of the alarm. Anakin is already in motion, his fingers flying across the console adjusting speed and orientation.
"What is it?" Padmé yells over the din.
"Proximity alert," Anakin answers quickly, not taking his eyes off the console to look at her. "We've got to get out of here. Now." He reaches over his shoulder, flipping several more switches.
Padmé watches the sensors her heart pounding in her chest as she watches the outline of a very, very large ship overtake their position. There is a loud clang followed by the scream of metal alloys under intense stresses.
She looks over at Anakin. He scowls for a heartbeat, then another. He returns her look. "It's a tractor beam." Finally, he reaches over and cuts the engines before they overload, swearing in frustration.
He's out of his seat, his hand clamped around her upper arm as he half drags her aft. She doesn't have time to ask him what he's doing before he starts tearing through compartments, rummaging through gear. She can hear loud banging outside as the yacht is pulled into the larger ship's hold.
"What are you looking for?" Padmé demands, wincing and taking shelter behind Anakin as sparks erupt near the emergency hatch from someone cutting through it.
"A breath mask."
They both turn as the large flap of metal hull is wrenched backwards and a projectile is lobbed through the opening. Padmé watches as the canister hisses and begins spewing a toxic cloud.
"That," Anakin curses, pulling her back toward the cockpit and away from the fumes.
"We are honored by your presence, My Lord," a booming voice says over the hangar's speaker system. "We expected you a bit sooner. Perhaps we can blame the Empress for your tardiness. She is quite … distracting."
Padmé knows that voice. She hasn't heard it many times, but it's very distinctive – all precise control and clipped edges.
"Tarkin," Anakin snarls. He pulls the lightsaber from his belt, intending to ignite it and cut away a section of the hull. Padmé clutches his arm, beginning to sway from the noxious fumes.
"I have no doubt you could escape unscathed, My Lord," Tarkin continues. "Though I'm not sure the same is true for the Empress. And let us not forget, we have your son."
Anakin turns to face Padmé. She holds his gaze, imploring him to cooperate. "Please, Anakin, he has Luke."
His jaw is firmly set, his expression hard, but the lightsaber remains unlit. Padmé feels her knees give way and collapses against him.
"Enough, Tarkin!" Anakin bellows.
Padmé thrashes, fighting to regain consciousness.
Anakin's quiet voice cuts through the haze and she stills. Her head pounds, but she can now discern that she is resting against him, cradled close to his body. She tries to open her eyes, but the burst of light seems to sear into her already scrambled brain and she screws her eyelids tightly shut again.
"Give it a minute. Tarkin flooded the ship with coma gas. Now that you're conscious, the side effects should pass soon."
Unconvinced, but with no other options, Padmé waits a minute. Then another. Despite her pessimism, the effects of the gas do seem to be weakening. She dares to open her eyes again and this time, she is much less light sensitive. She blinks quickly, scanning the room with her eyes, not yet brave enough to attempt moving her head.
The room is non-descript and stiflingly small with a single door which is no doubt locked from the outside. She licks her dry lips. "We're on a ship."
"The Executrix," he says dryly. "My ship. Probably en route to the Death Star."
Gingerly, Padmé pushes herself back so she is sitting under her own power rather than slumping against her husband. She is still woozy, but the sensations are quickly passing. She looks at Anakin. His face is set in the same grim lines she saw aboard the yacht. She can only imagine how angry he must be beneath his controlled exterior. Surely Tarkin's betrayal and use of Anakin's own ship against him must outrage him to his very core.
She narrows her eyes at him. "You seem to have recovered quickly."
He cocks an eyebrow at her. "I didn't succumb to the gas."
He smiles at her mirthlessly. "If all it took to incapacitate me was a little coma gas and a Star Destroyer, I wouldn't have lasted a week as Emperor."
Padmé looks away. No doubt he's absolutely right. "What's the plan?"
"Tarkin claims to have Luke."
"Do you believe him?"
"He isn't to be trusted, but I don't think he was lying about Luke. Without Luke, he wouldn't have anything to bargain. Tarkin never bluffs."
She nods sadly, trying not to break down at the thought of her son in the hands of not only that retched creature, Tarkin, but possibly the Emperor as well. "Can you feel Luke?"
He shakes his head, frowning. "I can't sense anything in the Force. Tarkin must have a large number of ysalamiri aboard the ship.
Padmé's eyes go wide and panic seizes her. If Anakin isn't able to use the Force, they're in incredible danger.
"It explains why I haven't been able to feel Luke" he says calmly. "If they're using ysalamiri to subdue me, they're surely doing the same thing to him."
"You make it sound like that's a good thing," Padmé says incredulously.
Anakin looks at her seriously. "There are only two ways Tarkin could have dealt with a Force user of Luke's caliber. He could kill him or find a way to negate his abilities. I prefer the latter and I'm sure you do too."
Padmé and Anakin are escorted by soldiers armed with both blasters and ysalamiri into the large holding cell aboard the Death Star. The soldiers march them into the cell and then turn and leave, sealing the heavy, metal door behind themselves. The cell is dark and dank with just enough illumination to make out the shape of another captive.
"They got you too?" Luke asks in disappointment.
"Luke!" Padmé runs to her son, embracing him tightly. He looks terrible, even the meager light. His clothes are filthy and torn. There is a nasty bruise across his left cheek and jaw. Dark circles are under his eyes.
"Are you okay?" she asks tearfully, knowing he has been through a lot.
He shrugs, not meeting her gaze. "They roughed me up a little, but I can take it." He sets his jaw firmly and finally meets her gaze.
She keeps her words to herself. He's a man. But he's still her baby and the fact that someone dared to harm a hair on his head is enough to send her into a murderous rage. But he's alive and whole and she concentrates on that feeling. She has never been so relieved. After the vision-dream she and Anakin shared, she feared the worst.
She finally releases Luke and he takes a deep breath, straightening his spine as he faces his father. Anakin's lips are pressed into a frown, but he reaches out and claps his son firmly on the shoulder. "Your mother was very worried."
Padmé frowns at her husband.
"Is Leia with you?" Anakin asks.
"Leia?" Luke asks, brow furrowing. "No. It's just been me and Mara and Ben since Tarkin's goons transferred us here from his Star Destroyer a couple days ago."
Movement in Padmé's peripheral vision catches her attention and she turns her head. There is a bench running the length of the room built for function, not comfort. There are two forms huddled together. Padmé knows it must be Mara and Obi-Wan.
She crosses the cell. As her eyes adjust to the absence of light, it's easier to make out detail. If she hadn't already known Obi-Wan's identity, she never would have guessed. Time and circumstance – and Anakin - have not been kind to the Jedi. He looks ancient far beyond his years. His hair and beard are snow white and he has a frail quality Padmé never would have associated with him.
She turns and gives Anakin a sharp look. He meets the look, his face set into a challenging expression daring her to say something. Reluctantly, Padmé holds her tongue. She knows it is nothing short of a miracle that Anakin hasn't already attacked Obi-Wan. Though she suspects maybe even the Emperor isn't a big enough bully to assault a feeble old man.
Kneeling next to Mara and Obi-Wan, she places a gentle hand on his leg. Even in the dim light, she can tell Obi-Wan's once blue eyes are now a clouded, milky white. He turns toward her, reaching out. His hand covers hers and he smiles. "Hello, there," he says warmly. "Good to see you, old friend."
She tries to speak, but the words are caught in her throat and tears burn her eyes. How did it come to this? She remembers when they all used to be so close. True, she and Anakin never revealed the full extent of their relationship to Obi-Wan, but the three of them were friends. They valued one another's opinions and companionship. She counted Obi-Wan as a good friend, a trusted advisor, and she knew he felt similarly. As for Anakin and Obi-Wan, they were brothers. And now …
Her breath hitches and tears stream down her cheeks.
"Now, now," Obi-Wan says softly. "None of that. It's not as dire as it may seem."
"You're blind and crippled," Padmé counters in disbelief. "We're all prisoners. How can you say it's not dire?"
Obi-Wan laughs softly again. "A Jedi is never truly a prisoner." He lifts his chin. "Isn't that right, my former Padawan?"
Padmé doesn't know if Obi-Wan is referring to his tenure as Anakin's prisoner or to their current imprisonment. Probably both. She doesn't risk glancing over her shoulder. Though Anakin doesn't reply, she can well imagine the glare he is giving his former Master.
"Lot of good Force training is doing us," Luke says with a snort. "First we were captured, now Mom and Dad. How did this happen? We're smarter than this."
"Apparently not," Obi-Wan and Anakin reply in unison.
Obi-Wan's lips quirk into a smile, but he wisely refrains from commenting.
"I allowed myself to be captured," Anakin clarifies. "It seemed to be the quickest way to find out if Palpatine actually had you."
"Palpatine?" Luke says in shock. "Tarkin ambushed us near Kooriva. Palpatine's dead." He looks at his father questioningly. "Isn't he?"
"Too many things are falling into place. Someone is manipulating events and people. There was an assassination attempt against your mother several days ago."
"Mom?" Luke demands, eyes going wide as he looks at Padmé.
"I'm fine," Padmé assures her son. "Just a few bruises."
"We good reason to believe Palpatine is alive," Anakin says firmly. He looks at Obi-Wan.
Despite being blind, Obi-Wan seems to sense Anakin's attention to him. He bows his head. "Even in the absence of the Force, I do sense Sidious's malignant plotting in Takin's efforts."
"The use of ysalamiri explains why he's letting Tarkin do all the work," Padmé says. "He can't get involved without being effected himself."
"True," Obi-Wan agrees, "but I expect he will make himself known soon enough. Sith Lords are rarely able to suppress the urge to gloat."
Ignoring Obi-Wan's jab, Anakin adds darkly, "Or the urge to exact their revenge."
Padmé looks anxiously at her husband, finding him looking at Luke.
"What happened?" Anakin asks his son.
Luke shrugs and looks away.
"I know what torture looks like," Anakin says pointedly.
Luke shifts his weigh uneasily on the balls of his feet. "Some guards knocked me around a little."
"He could barely walk for a day," Mara says, speaking for the first time.
Luke shoots Mara a sharp glance, but then looks back to his father.
Anakin closes the distance to his son. Reaching out, he grabs Luke's chin and inspects the deep bruise across his left cheek. "Blaster butt?" he asks.
Luke nods. As Anakin releases him, Luke rubs his jaw. "They hit a lot harder than you."
Anakin sighs in exasperation. "I wasn'ttrying to hurt you. Kriff."
They've been sitting here in the chilly, fetid dark for what feels like days – but in actuality is probably only hours. Padmé's backside is numb. And she's cold – despite being pressed tightly against Anakin. They're sitting on the cold metal floor leaning back against a cold metal wall. Several paces away, Luke sits, legs sprawled in front of him, tugging absently on a lock of hair. Between his hair tugging and Anakin tapping his metal fingers against the floor, Padmé is about ready to scream. Every few minutes, Obi-Wan lets loose a series of bone-wracking coughs.
There is the sound of heavy footfalls outside the door before the portal finally hisses open. Her vision is so attuned to the dark Padmé has to lift her hand to shield her eyes from the bright light streaming into the cell.
A lone person enters the room, standing at attention, apparently surveying the scene. Padmé knows who it is before he speaks.
"Senator Amidala," Tarkin bites out, saying her former title as if it leaves a bitter taste in his mouth. "I would be so honored if you would join me."
Anakin is on his feet in moments, dragging Padmé with him and stepping protectively in front of her.
Tarkin laughs mirthlessly. "How … quaint," he says disdainfully. "I never considered that the Lord Vader might have some misguided chivalry." He snaps his fingers. "Guards!"
Four heavily armed guards enter the cell and Padmé can feel Anakin's muscles tense. She grabs his shoulder. "Don't do this."
"They're taking you over my dead body," he snarls.
"That'sexactly how it's going to happen if you don't stop this foolishness and think."
Her insult has the desired effect as his snarl morphs into a surly frown.
"They didn't go to all the trouble of taking us alive only to get me here and kill me," Padmé explains.
He snorts. "That's an incredibly naïve thing to say."
"Go with this, Anakin," she presses. "We have no way out of here, no way of knowing what's happening. Let me go with Tarkin."
The guards are now standing mere feet away, weapons raised.
"Please," Padmé implores.
He is obviously angry, but he steps back, letting her walk past him.
Padmé is encircled by the guards and Tarkin rewards her with a nasty, predatory smile. "I'm so glad you're reasonable," he says.
Padmé doesn't look back at Anakin. She can't. She hears Tarkin fall into step behind her as the guards march her through the door.
"If anything happens to her, Tarkin, I'll rip your spine out with my bare hands," Anakin shouts.
The door hisses shut and Padmé turns to look at Tarkin. He smiles another vile smile. "Charming, to the last," he says.